Portland Proceeds To Once Again Break Expectations!
With the Blazers knocking out the Denver Nuggets in a 7-game series, the Blazers make their way to the conference finals where they will face the Golden State Warriors. The Blazers for the first time since 2000 have a chance to make the finals as this is the Blazers first time in making the conference finals since the 2000 season.
The Blazers have defeated all odds in the NBA as they have once again stirred up the NBA world. In this game 7, the Nuggets were at first playing stellar as they were up by 12 at the end of the first quarter and furthered the score by 17 in the second quarter. However, the Blazers used the deficit as fuel to break all expectations as they go for a nice scoring run to only be down by 9 points at the half. With Portland cutting the score to single digits at the half, the Blazers more specifically Cj McCollum used the deficit to enhance their mentality towards the game. Unlike the Nuggets, the Blazers have been in the playoffs for the last five years which gives them the advantage of having the experience factor. Throughout the years for the Blazers, they have always managed to either get eliminated in the first round or get swept in the second round. The experience they received from all of those first or second round exits is what led to them winning this game against an un-experienced Denver team. This loss that Denver committed has been the most beneficial thing that could have happened to their franchise due to how young they are. Most people felt that Denver was the better overall constructed team however, did not possess the experience factor. Although the Nuggets were up by a significant amount at the half, Portland used their experience to have an incredible third quarter of scoring 39 points compared to Denver’s 24. Portland gained momentum and continued to play veteran basketball as they have been in this situation in the past.
Lillard who had a borderline triple-double of having 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists was a washed up performance due to the real star of game 7 being CJ McCullum. McCullum scored an impressive 37 points to keep the Blazers alive in this game. Lillard struggled from the field as he was 3/17 which is 17.6% and also struggled from the three-point line by going 2/9 which is 22.2% shooting. Someone had to elevate this team in order to make it to the next round which is what McCullum was for the Blazers. He shot a staggering 17/29 shooting performance which is 58.6% from the field and was only 1/3 from the three-point line which is 33%. McCullum also hit the highlight tape as he committed one of the clutch-est blocks that the NBA has not seen in a long time from that guard position.
Denver had there fair share of stardom with, Nikola Jokic scoring 29 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks with a pretty average percentile of 42%. Gary Harris did his role as he has been one of the better Nugget players in the playoffs with averages of, 14.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists with the average of 46% from the field. In the game seven performance, Jamal Murray was the X-factor in this game. With a disappointing 4/18 shooting, Jamal finished with only 17 points, six rebounds, and five assists. If Murray had a decent shooting performance for the Denver Nuggets, the outcome would have been different as they only lost by four points. With the final score being 100-96, Murray’s shooting is what essentially costed the game for the Nuggets. If Murray hit two shots more then what he produced, the Nuggets could have walked away with a win. The good news for the Nuggets is, they are a young upcoming team in the NBA and could easily be the best team in the NBA. The talent they possess is incredible, having young talents such as Malik Beasley, Monte Morris, Juan Hernangomez and especially with at one point a top recruit in the NBA draft being Micheal Porter Jr, its safe to say that Denver is going to have plenty of chances to make the NBA finals.
What Was The Take Away Stat For Portland To Seal The Deal?
Portland struggled in the first half and was on the path to once again be eliminated in the second round. McCullum came out of nowhere as he displayed an incredible scoring performance by producing 37 points. With McCullum's incredible game seven performance, the question is, what happened to Denver's lead.
Denver in the first half played stellar as the score was 48-39. However, the real struggle that Denver had was, not nailing enough three-point shots. With the constant misses that Denver was committing, Portland took advantage and produced points. Most of the points that Portland scored in the second half was from the inside as role players stepped up and played their part. Players such as Evan Turner who has been struggling on the offensive side by only scoring seven points in under 140 minutes of play is rather disappointing. However, Turner exploded by scoring 14 points seven rebounds and two assists as he knew what was at stake. The most notable element about Turners game seven performance was, 10 of those 14 points that he scored were all from the fourth quarter. Zach Collins is another notable player as he had an important contribution on the defensive side of the game with committing four blocks. Collins played important minutes with understanding his main objective which was, to guard Jokic. Considering that Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless were struggling in this series, Enes Kanter while fasting the Holy month of Ramadan managed to score 12 points with 13 rebounds for the Blazers.
The takeaway stat that allowed the Blazers to win this game is, Denver struggling to land shots in the second half. By Denver struggling, the Blazers used that as momentum. The Blazers role players coming up big was an important contribution to CJ McCullum's clutch performance of 37 points. The experience that Portland possess gave Denver a hard time to match what they were doing.
The Nuggets needed this loss in order for them to elevate their team to the next level. The Nuggets had an amazing season as they were the second seed in an extremely competitive Western Conference. For the Nuggets to even make it to the second round is already very impressive as they went from a ninth seed last year to now already defying expectations. The Nuggets are a legit threat that no one should discount. Next season is going to be a captivating experience for NBA fans as we can now see the new upcoming dynasty in the NBA.